Everyone Is A Prisoner!

By Oluwatobi Salami. Oluwatobi, 19, is a final year student in Accounting at the Akwa Ibom State University, in Nigeria.(*Shortlisted for the 2018 prize!)

What crossed your mind when you saw this title?

Chains? Gates? Locks, bolts, and keys? Armed men standing at the door? Prison inmates stinking and looking at you, wishing you would pass them your plate of poorly cooked beans and say you’re too sick to eat it? Or the writ of another philosopher? I do not know. Whatever it is that you’re imagining now, I do not know. Am I your inmate? I do not know.

What I do know is this: everyone is a prisoner!

I’m sure you have heard the popular quote by Victor Hugo that goes thus: “he who opens a school door closes a prison”. What prison?

I will not make a sweeping statement by saying that he referred to the literal prison where my educated and kind-hearted friend is currently serving a term, but could it be so? Well, let’s look at it a little more cautiously. Everyone will agree that even when illiteracy is a motivating factor for crime and eventual imprisonment, there aren’t only illiterates in prison. In fact, there are a good number of people, who have ‘opened many school doors’ as it were, and ended up having to stay for the rest of their lives with inmates who always needed their poorly cooked beans. These people were not uneducated, but somehow, they ended up in prison.

Again, I would be forced to think in this direction – the prison referred to by Victor may not just be literal, but symbolic. Is that hard to understand? Let me make you answer ‘No’. It simply means that if Sam ‘opens a school door’, he would surely learn something from a teacher whose job it is to enlighten. One day, as he learns what the teacher knows, and develops his level of understanding, he will eventually graduate from the school as an educated individual. Thus, Sam ‘closes a prison’ of ignorance! Can ignorance be fittingly called a prison? I would say ‘yes’. When one is uneducated or ignorant, he will surely be bound to the chains of shame, locked behind the bars of regrets, and smart enough to desire someone else’s ‘poorly cooked beans’.

You may be wondering, what in the name of God does all these have to do with the title up there? That question will be resolved by understanding the third perspective from which I am viewing Victor Hugo’s statement. Refer again to the last words in his quote – “closes a prison”. Let’s try to replace the article “a” with “the” and see what difference it makes now. It would read “he who opens a school door closes the prison”. If this was to be the quote, he would have rendered this third reasoning invalid, but he chose to make the quote read the way you know it to be. It could be that Victor didn’t only have in mind one stinking literal prison, but up to two symbolic prisons. How so? Assume that there are two symbolic prisons – the prison of ignorance explained above, and the prison of literacy. The prison of literacy here will mean the prison for the one who has attained the status of an educated individual. Going by this understanding, such an individual is chained or restricted from doing those things that an uneducated person would do. He would also have to stay behind the bars of possible wealth and comfort, and be smart enough to trade a meager part of his knowledge for good food, and money.

Am I free now to prove that everyone is a prisoner? As you may know, an individual is either educated or is an illiterate. There is just no fence to sit on here. So, you have to be in one of the prisons – ignorance or literacy. Are you not a prisoner?

The essence of the whole quote cannot be overemphasized – education is a key to freedom from the enslavement to ignorance. If you have read this far, without problems of understanding, or even getting offended, then I know three things that are true about you. You are educated, inquisitive, and you most likely do not bear the name – “everyone”. So literally, you are probably not a prisoner.

88 comments on “Everyone Is A Prisoner!

  1. J-crane on

    waw! “am glad u at least know am probably not a literal prisoner” u murdered it. awesome beginning, grand end, totally beautiful…….like seriously u gat this.

    Reply
  2. Jessica Clair on

    I just love the way you pen your thought down. It was like a communication that becomes a win win at the end. Really nice write up. This is thought provocating.

    Reply
  3. Nathaniel on

    You got me with d 1st paragraph. Its really engaging; i would say. This is exceptional….fantastic….super….great job Bro. More inspiration…👊👍

    Reply
  4. Ime David on

    Very much true. Irony of life.
    Just like freedom, everyone wants to be free, buh then we do things that can’t get us that freedom.

    Reply
  5. Olanrewaju on

    Am sure you wanted to know where this piece was going to end…. Good beggining, perfect ending with reasoning.

    One would go back and read again and again because it makes different meaning at another reading all buttressing same point. Thank you writer.

    Reply
  6. Ezekiel Olaleye on

    I said it.
    This guy is a legendary writer!
    I must profess that this piece really educated me!
    Keep penning boss!
    You got this

    Reply
  7. Jordan Michelle on

    You are just too brilliant, too brilliant, boy. First I love your title and I trust that anyone will love to read this for the title alone. Second, the way you kept my interest from the beginning till the end is magical, in fact I wished I never saw that last full stop. Thirdly, the lesson is simply the truth.
    If I were given a thousand works to choose from, I’ll chose this one over and over.

    You made my year.

    Reply
  8. Etiutit Eno on

    I must testify that you’re so amazing
    I love your write up…….. Pls keep it up
    God will see you through in your next adventure
    Kudos!

    Reply
  9. Larrykj on

    Am sure you wanted to know where this piece was going to end…. Good beggining, perfect ending with reasoning.

    One would go back and read again and again because it makes different meaning at another reading all buttressing same point. Thank you writer.

    Reply
  10. Kamaldeen Arasi on

    Wow! What a fantastic expression!

    Tobi Salami, you are qualified to be called a writer, an exemplary writer indeed.

    Well-done.

    Reply
  11. Anderson Jimmy on

    I really think the world needs to read this.
    “Freedom from the enslavement to ignorance”. There can be no better definition.
    NUHA is blessed to have you!

    Reply
  12. Ujoma Friday on

    I’ve been going through works on this same theme on this site. But, this one way way way beats them all.
    I really do appreciate your use of a good attractive title that helped in keeping my attention. Please keep writing.

    Reply
  13. Amaobi Uche on

    Every one is a prisoner-i thought ,it will be eye opening. It is and it does that so beautifully, you will have to read to the end.
    Plus you “nailed the landing”
    Its really very nice.

    Reply
  14. Rachel Simon on

    I am sharing this, right now. This work is not only educative, but it captivating, interesting, and creative.
    You really do sound like “another philosopher”, you played well with my brain, kept my attention and made me feel good with the grand ending. God bless you brain.

    Reply
  15. Christian Aliko on

    It’s amazing how your mind can put this up in such a beautiful way. I mean, you deserve public attention, the world needs to hear you through your words.

    For the fact that I am a writer too but got awed at your way of writing, this is impressive plus you are a genius at being conversational with minds, something that is usually not attainable with writing but with spoken words. Thanks to NUHA for bringing you out to brightness, you need to win this.

    Christian. From Lagos, Nigeria.

    Reply
  16. Ifeoluwa Afolami on

    …education is the key to freedom from the enslavement to ignorance…
    That got me…
    Keep writing the right Tobi Salami.. The ink will always flow!!!

    Reply
  17. Godfrey Dominic on

    This is super awesome. I would not have forgiven myself if I didn’t get to read this article after a host of crabs I have read out there. I have share this.
    When I tried searching for you online, I found your recent YouTube video, and I must confess that you are gifted.

    I need others to watch it too.
    https://youtu.be/kik307uRPr4

    Reply
  18. Oluwatobi Salami on

    Thank you everyone for your beautiful comments and of course your votes. Even when facebook blocked this voting link, you were patient enough to wait for it to be unblocked. I cannot thank you enough.
    .
    .
    Today happens to be the last day for the voting. We shall await the shortlist and afterward wait for the judges’ decision on which article won their hearts. Until then, I say: May God bless us all, prisoners of literacy!

    Reply
  19. Tobi Salami on

    Thank you everyone for your beautiful comments and of course your votes. Even when facebook blocked this voting link, you were patient enough to wait for it to be unblocked. I cannot thank you enough.
    .
    .
    Today happens to be the last day for the voting. We shall await the shortlist and afterward wait for the judges’ decision on which article won their hearts. Until then, I say: May God bless us all, prisoners of literacy!!!

    Reply

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